Posted by: atowhee | April 23, 2018


Our garden has a pair of nesting Bewick’s Wrens.  The female is now on the eggs, or may have young hatchlings.  The nest is nestled next to our house in a small covered slot above the irrigation control panel.  The male is back and forth frequently.  Out to hunt, back with food, flitting through low bushes and over ground cover, skittering across the sidewalk, up into the boxwood.  He is almost too quick to follow, but the long tail and pale gray chest add shape to his blurry presence.

Here is the picture I got when I literally uncovered the nest back on March 29th:BW NEST2I can no longer disturb or uncover the nest until I know the young have fledged.  But I did take pictures through the “open door” that the male uses to reach the nest and through the young must fledge, with and without flash:bs nest wo flashbw nest with flashI will be listening and watching for those fledglings.
They generally have five to seven eggs.  Incubation by the female takes two weeks, then two weeks later the hatchlings leave the nest to never return.  It would take them her a week or longer to lay that many eggs.  There were none on the 29th of March as I saw them carrying material So let’s say the clutch was complete as soon as possible afterwards, around April 10 or so.  That means hatching will happen soon and then I will see both birds out catching and delivering food.

Posted by: atowhee | April 23, 2018


Sun and warmth.  Light breeze and petals drifting down from cherry trees.  Redbuds and dogwoods showy against the blue spring sky. A faint sweet smell as you pass a lilac or flowering magnolia. The “old” trillium flowers now turning purple as they wind up their once a year performance beneath the forest canopy.

And two firsts for 2018.  I made my first sun tea of the year.  And a breeding plumage American Goldfinch male braved the scurrying, agitating crowd of siskins to use our feeders and birdbath. His yellow was brighter, richer than the sun’s today.  His courage belied the color of his feathers as he bravely drove off a couple of his finchy cousins, those pushy siskins.  The human world has push-pins.  The finchworld has “push-kins,” unrelated to any Russian poet, past or present.FOY-AMGOAMGO ATTACKBATHTIMEThe siskins now sit in the trees and buzz at me, making that sizzling sound that rises in pitch.  It’s a call unique among Oregon birds. Here;s one siskin with his back to the morning sun, absorbing plenty of heat…and displaying his nicely notched tail feathers.SIS-TRUNKDoes this male towhee really think we can’t see him?ST HIDDNHere is one half of the Bushtit couple that are nesting nearby and come daily to the suet feeder.  I have not managed to find their nest.BT HIGHHere is half of the golden-crowned Sparrows lingering in our garden.  Some day soon both they and the many siskins will be gone for the summer.GC-LOOKGC-SEEDGC-SEED2GC-TURNHere’s a Golden-crown at Grenfell Park, eating cherry blossoms:GC FEED
On the trails at the Trappist Monastery north of Lafayette:BIG OAKCHERRYThis delicate, shy beauty (below) is known as calypso orchid or fairy slipper.  It is an orchid, Calypso bulbosa. Look carefully in undisturbed, deep woods.  They await your discover.IMG_3665Blooming madrone, promise of berries to please every fructivore in birdland.MADROTrillium trio:TRILLIUM TRIOTRPPIST TRAILNOT JUST BIRDS
Deer along Baker Creek Road:BCR-DEER

My first snake of the year…waring himself on sunny rock in a suburban neighborhood.  I wish him well as there are always lesser beings afraid of snakes…GARTER1This guy is a northwestern garter snake.GARTER2

Posted by: atowhee | April 22, 2018


“I fledge allegiance to this stream, in which I stand…”   –anon. dipper

“He is the mountain streams’ own darling, the hummingbird of blooming waters, loving rocky ripple-slopes and sheets of foam as a bee loves flowers, as a lark loves sunshine and meadows…”                                                     –“The Water-ouzel” by John Muir

This morning I re-visited the dipper nest under the chosen bridge along Baker Creek Road.  The opening had been enlarged; the nestlings are now fledglings.  Somewhere along this clear, churning creek the family of two adults and at least three young are now hunting their daily meals.  These newly minted dippers will be loyal to Baker Creek.  They will travel up and down the upper stretches, perhaps visit a tributary or two.  They will learn the skills needed to be dippers.  Swimming against the  pull of the current.  Looking beneath stones and litter on the  bottom of pools.  Checking the wet, moss-covered rocks right along the creekside.   How to shake a caddis fly larva so it comes out of its leathery cocoon. How to sing that long, gurgling, musical song.

Muir again: “No need of spring sunshine to thaw his song, for it never freezes.  Never shall you hear anything wintry from his warm breast, no pinched cheeping, no wavering notes between sorrow and joy; his mellow, fluty voice is ever tuned to downright gladness, as free from dejection as cock-crowing.”DPR NEST EMPTYHere is the nest with opening enlarged.  You can see through to the back wall which is simply the cement of the bridge.  Below, is a large mossy rock I placed along the creek edge so I could easily stand oppositge the nest.  The dippers themselves used that same rock, leaving their whitewash (dipperwash, if you will) as evidence.DIPP-WASHBelow is upper Baker Creek where the dipper family is not making its nomadic living.  If the aerial density of insects is any indicator, they should do well.  Today there were gnats, small flies, pale tiny moths and a few large white butterflies flitting about.  Some of those surely come from aquatic larva on which the dippers can feed.  Dippers will also take tiny fish and other little vertebrates.BAKR CREEK

Here is what the Birds of North America has to say about the adults feeding nestlings.  It still does not quite answer my questions about double visits by single adult in rapid succession. Maybe next spring I can pitch a tent and just live by the nest for a few days and figure it out….  Actually dippers may nest twice in a summer rich with streamy foodstuffs.


“Both parents feed young, although lone parent can raise young. Parents give grawk call (see Sounds: vocalizations, above) as they approach nest [my italics]. Young birds call loudly at feeding time, especially as they get older. [Amen!] Depending on nest site, parent alights near nest, then flies, hops, or walks rapidly to nest; parent may cling to lower edge of nest or hover while delivering food. By 5–6 d, young can reach for food through opening (Hann 1950). Food is delivered quickly (5–10 s; Bakus 1959a)); toward end of nestling period, feeding may take only 1 s (Hann 1950). Some observers report only 1 nestling fed at each nest visit (Cordier 1927, but in Southeast Alaska, two or three chicks are sometimes fed at a single visit (MFW, R. Danner, pers. comm.). Shortest time observed to leave and to return with food is 20–30 s (Bakus 1959a).

“Parent feeds nearest young; nestlings change places at defecation time. Older nestlings excrete from nest and frequently shift positions, so food is fairly well divided among them (Rishel 1925). Nevertheless, brood reduction appears to be rather common (see Demography/Recruitment).

“Nestlings are fed same food as adults eat, but often in different proportions. In Gunnison Co., CO, nestlings fed 63.5% mayflies, 24.5% stoneflies, and 11.5% caddisflies. Food is gathered within 300–400 m of nest (Hann 1950). One report of parent washing food in water before feeding it to young (Evenden 1943). On some streams in Southeast Alaska, salmon fry are a common prey delivered to the nest, even to very young chicks; the maximum number of fry delivered was 4 per nest visit and 17 per hour (Willson and Hocker 2008b). Chicks in late-summer broods on salmon-spawning streams are also fed salmon eggs (Willson and Hocker 2008b, MFW).

According to some observers, feeding primarily by female (Hann 1950Bakus 1959a). In 50 h of observation at 3 nests, female made 204 of 370 feeding trips, male 166 (Sullivan 1973). At one nest, female fed 8 times/h, male fed less often but more frequently between 1000 and 1400 h, usually when female brooding young; together parents made 12 trips/h (Cordier 1927); at another nest, 20–26 trips/h (Rishel 1925). In Missoula Co., MT, more frequent feeding up to 2–3 d before fledging: every 1–7 min (usually every 2 min; Goodge 1959). On same stream, Sullivan (Sullivan 1973) recorded fewer feeding trips—8.76/h; he noted that feeding trips peak 15–17 d after hatching, at 4 trips/nestling/h, with rapid drop to 1.5/trips/nestling/h by 23 d. In Southeast Alaska, feeding rates varied from 0 to 35 trips per hour (usually about 10-17), with roughly equal contribution of both male and female (Willson and Hocker 2008b, 2009b). Just before fledging, number of trips declines; this correlates with weight reduction which may encourage departure from nest (Sullivan 1973).”


Posted by: atowhee | April 21, 2018


This morning our McMinnville birding class went to Grand Island.  Most numerous species was Cliff Swallow.  As we drove over the bridge above the river arm separating mainland from island we were beneath hundreds of Cliff Swallows who will nest on that bridge this summer.

Our second stop found us beneath a wired-up White-crowned Sparrow near two perched Bald Eagles and watching a Vaux’s Swift pass by…in flight, of course.  It was my first view of that species this year.  I hope they return to nest in our chimney once again.

We were treated to a clear, sunny view of a Red-breasted Sapsucker preening himself high in a dead cottonwood. We also had one Common Yellowthroat who circled us and allowed some quick glimpses.  As we left the river greenway parking area a male Purple Finch was serenading from high in nearby trees.

Three nest platforms were occupied by Osprey, and we saw an osprey having a late breakfast of fresh fish. No sauce, no side order of fries.  Kater we saw a young eagle chasing another Osprey.BE TWOGETHERC-S FLOK2Cliff Swallows:C-S FLOK3OSPAIRDOSPLATFRMWhite-crowned Sparrow…this one was singing to us as we watched.WCS-BUSHDWC-WIRED

Grand Island Loop, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 21, 2018 9:00 AM – 11:40 AM.  38 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Northern) (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos/conboschas)  2
California Quail (Callipepla californica)  2     seen as we drove off the island
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  3
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  6
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  3
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  X
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  1–my first of the year
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  2
Downy Woodpecker (Pacific) (Picoides pubescens gairdnerii/turati)  2
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  X
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Steller’s Jay (Coastal) (Cyanocitta stelleri [stelleri Group])  2
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2
Barn Swallow (American) (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster)  X
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  400
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  X
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  1
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)  20
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)  1
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  3
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  2
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  X
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  X
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
Purple Finch (Western) (Haemorhous purpureus californicus)  X
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | April 20, 2018


April 20 in Dipperworld.

I am puzzled by double attempts to feed in rapid succession…what’s going on…click here for blog where I try to speculate on feeding process.NEST PRFECTD INAIRD-EYE6DEYE7DEYE8DIPEYE2DR1DR2DR3DR4DR TAKEOFF (1)NESTFEED1NESTFEED4NESTFEED6

Posted by: atowhee | April 20, 2018


Nestlings still hungry.  Adults still diligently feeding.  Creek has dropped a bit more and cleared considerably.  That should make hunting easier.  It is hunting, right, not fishing?  You only fish for fish.  Insects, crayfish, frogs–that’s hunting even if they are in the water, I presume worth some research.

Worth even more research: do adult dippers have swallowed food to regurgitate as well as the insect larvae they carry in the beak?  I have now several times seen adults make rapidly repeated feeding visits…too quick to have picked up additional or new food. It happened again today.  Here are the first and second feedings with a second of two of one another…thanks to my rapid-fire camera:NESTDEED2Then the adult was clinging to the lower skirt of nest, one larva still in its beak.  Did the first nestling just not grab all there was?  Was this bit back in the adult’s throat? Then the parent quickly made a second feeding lurch.  All this happened too fast for me to see, over about ten frames recorded by my camera as I was shooting on burst…so I have only the images to mull over.  More research later.  Gotta go birding.NEST-FEED3NESTFEED5For a gallery of dipper shots from today’s visit, click here.

Posted by: atowhee | April 20, 2018


To nobody’s surprise the oil industry is profiting from the current political regime in Washington D.C.  Nature, not so much.

Posted by: atowhee | April 19, 2018


Sunshine, blue skies, daisies blooming amidst the dandelions–every bird was a winner at Wennerberg this morning.

Wennerberg Park was alive with active birds.  There were calls and songs from Canada Geese, flicker, Acorn Woodpecker, robins, White-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Purple  Finch and numerous Song Sparrows.  The latter will be nesting along the river. House Sparrows were carrying nesting material into one of the roofed picnic structures.

Orange-crowned Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Audubon Warblers were busy in the deciduous trees that are leafing out.  My best photos today were a Red-breasted Sapsucker in breeding finery, enjoy:rbs briterbs looks downrbs pokeKinglet plays hard to get:rcki flttrrcki hidezBushtit, nest still…single bird means the flock has disbanded for breeding season.  See the whole gang again in late summer:bt feedzbt flizbvt fliz2Wennerberg showing off:wenn-sprng

The bigleaf maple are adorned with their usual spring mapl

Click here for radio report on migrating songbirds and the challenges brought on by climate change.

Wennerberg Park, Carlton, OR, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 19, 2018.  19 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  6–honking, of course
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  2,  silent as a floating feather
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  2
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Bushtit (Pacific) (Psaltriparus minimus [minimus Group])  2
White-breasted Nuthatch (Pacific) (Sitta carolinensis aculeata/alexandrae)  1, calling
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  5
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  30, singing
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)  5
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  8, singing
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  10
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  10
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  14, singing
Purple Finch (Western) (Haemorhous purpureus californicus)  X     singing
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X     nest building

Posted by: atowhee | April 19, 2018


Mid-day I went out to check on the dipper nest along Baker Creek.  Busy, busy, busy.  An adult bird brought food to three anxious, squealing young twice in thirty seconds.  One of the young was facing out the nest hole when I arrived, anticipating.  This is the twelfth day since I found the nest.  Countdown to fledging at some unknown future date,  but probably before the end of this month.

Waiting out front:out frontWAITINGCan we agree to call this one “double dipper?”double dipperAdult arrives just upstream with meal in mouth.  Stream now exposing some rocks, making approach easier.dipp-mawdipp-maw2What’s in the maw, ma?dipp-maw3To the nest, note in images #3 through #5 you see all three nestling gapes, bright yellow when opened.contact1contact2contact3contact4contact5contact6contaCT7After the feeding ends, the squeals linger on.  A high, grating series of calls.GGOD-BYscreamscream2The same adult stops briefly along the creek, downstream, then abruptly returns to the nest, perhaps with another morsel.DIPP INDIPP IN2DIPP IN3DIPP IN4DIPP IN5All this action took place in less than fives minutes.  Note in the background of final images the miniature rainforest growing–fern fiddleheads and this year’s horsetails.

For a songbird of this size the dipper is slow to mature as a nestling.  They must be fully feathered and waterproof when they leave the nest.  That means roughly double the number of feathers a similar-sized towhee or bluebird would need to fledge.  That takes protein and time.  Also they have much more hemoglobin in the blood for high oxygen carriage and metabolic production of body heat.  They must swim in, be insulated from and not be sickened by very cold water soon after leaving their warm, mossy nest.

Posted by: atowhee | April 18, 2018


Vultures and Violet-green Swallows high overhead this afternoon.  A Western Bluebird about a mile west of Huber County Park, then just uphill on a dirt lane that serves several private farms.  Bluebirds are scarce here in Yamhill County because there is so much intensive agriculture and the chemicals that go with it. However, the narrow valley along Baker Creek doesn’t afford much real farmland, a few pastures and vineyards.  This bird was in an area where is a small pond, grassy fields not is use and a small garden–no rows of hazelnuts or acres of fescue.

This is Day #10 since I located the Baker Creek dipper nest…adults still ferrying food, but at least one of the three (known) nestlings was hanging out the nest hole today (images below)…perhaps fledging  is impending soon.  The young can stay in the nest as long as 24 days but they were not newborn when I found the nest, so I guess they are more than two weeks old, meaning they will fledge before May.

Today the creek was still over the mid-stream rocks but it had cleared, making it much easier for the visual hunters, the dippers.CREEKHere you see the bird’s white eyelid  I caught him mid-blink.DIPP ON ROKDIPP WETTDIPP WITH FOODRapid food delivery to nestlings:FEEDING TIMENESTLING2Nestling at the doorway…getting ready to leave nest?NSTLINGRed-breasted Sapsucker:RBS ON WEDTV ON BLUE

Baker Creek Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 18, 2018 4:45 PM – 5:25 PM. 14 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  7
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)  1
Steller’s Jay (Coastal) (Cyanocitta stelleri [stelleri Group])  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  3
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  30
American Dipper  2
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  2
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  X

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